ELLICOTT CITY – Howard County Executive Ken Ulman on Tuesday signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with a large local church that will provide resources for stormwater treatment on church property and reduce the congregation’s annual Watershed Protection and Restoration Fee to zero.
“This partnership will help keep our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay clean, and will allow this important church to continue its mission of helping families and the environment,” County Executive Ulman said.
Under the agreement, Howard County will provide $145,000 in grant funding to Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church, the first participant in the county’s Watershed Protection Partnership Program. The grant will create three large bioretention areas on the church’s large parking lot. Those areas will use best practices to filter rainwater before it reaches streams.
Bethel Korean Presbyterian is located on 10 acres in Ellicott City, of which 5.5 of those acres are impervious and covered by either buildings or parking lots. Because of that construction, the church would have been subject to a $7,155 annual stormwater treatment fee. By participating in the new program, the fee will be reduced to zero.
“What makes Howard County’s program unique is that we are not just waiving fees for non-profits and religious institutions,” said County Executive Ulman. “We are making sure they do their part to keep the environment clean.”
“Churches are deep in spiritual resources, but not necessarily financial resources,” said William Jin, Pastor of Bethel Korean Presbyterian. “This program allows us to care for the land and help the community.”
Grant funding will be available through the Howard County Watershed Protection and Restoration Plan, adopted by the Howard County Council earlier this year. The program also includes targeted relief for non-profits and religious institutions. In October, Howard County distributed notices to all properties owned by non-profits seeking their participation in the partnership program. About 90 owners, representing more than 120 properties, have agreed to take part so far.
“We designed a program that was fair to property owners, and also provided relief to the non-profit community,” said County Councilmember Courtney Watson, who represents District 1, which includes the church. “We are doing our best to implement state mandates and meet federal Chesapeake Bay requirements in an equitable and effective way.”
Ulman was joined for the signing by Robert Summers, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, who said that “under the leadership of the O’Malley-Brown Administration, Maryland is making great strides in improving water quality, but there is still more that needs to be done.”
“We need to shift the discussion,” Secretary Summers said. “It’s not about the rain. It’s about the pollution.”
Design work and analysis for the project was done by the Center for Watershed Protection, based in Ellicott City. Lori Lilly, a planner with the center, noted that the church property sits at the headwaters of the Tiber-Hudson River, which runs through downtown Ellicott City into the Patapsco River.
“Restoring the Chesapeake Bay is a daunting task that is not in the control of one individual or one government. But restoring the Tiber-Hudson is within our grasp, if we work together,” Lilly said.
The projects on Bethel Korean Presbyterian property will treat an equivalent of 1.35 acres. Howard County is required to treat 2,300 acres of impervious surface over the next several years to meet federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements related to the Chesapeake Bay pollution diet.